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Hao’s Grocery Store and Cafe
WHO? Hao Tran
What? Hao’s Grocery and Cafe is an Asian grocery with cooking classes.
Where? 120 St. Louis Ave. in Fort Worth
The Fort Worth Report spoke with Hao Tran about the business. This interview has been edited for content, grammar and clarity.
Seth Bodin: How did you get started as a food entrepreneur?
Hao Tran: I became an empty nester. I had two girls in college and no one to cook for anymore. So I started cooking for friends who said maybe you should do something with it. And I had a pop-up dinner for, you know, eight people. Sold out 30 seconds after I posted it. They were people some of us didn’t know. Then I posted another one and it also sold out within minutes.
This was in 2018. Then I had a mutual friend, her name is Meda Kessler. She knew me and then she went to an event my dumpling partner Dixya was having and she introduced us and said “you guys need to get together”. And we did, meeting at Central Market and over a bottle of wine and planning our first pop up. And since then we’ve been doing pop-ups for about two years until COVID.
I introduced her to Trent and Dena Shascan because I met them at farmers markets. I was running this market for the property manager there and Trent was just starting out and making bread and Dena had been in the business for a long time but she was just selling her soups at this market and they were looking for a retail location. Trent used to sell Magnolia bread, you know, in front of Stir Crazy.
The four of us got together. I found this unit because my hairdresser was the first tenant and she and I were neighbors in another unit on Magnolia and the college. There was nothing here but concrete and beams. But I could see the potential because it was raw space. And I showed it to the other three and they said yes, it’s within our budget and we can finish it however we like.
After the COVID went away, we brought people back into the store. That was just a year ago.
We started running our courses again, started shopping more in person. But then Trent and Dena got the chance to go to the center about two years ago. I have not pursued it with them.
Bodin: Why not?
trans: It’s just that the business concept wasn’t something I felt comfortable with. I need to know what the details are that are consistent. I couldn’t operate, saying well, we’ll see in a year or two.
Bodin: This is not your full time job. You teach, right? What subject?
trans: Chemistry, biology, physics. I mean I’ve taught everything, 20 years of teaching.
Bodin: Is this what you always wanted to do?
trans: No, I actually wanted to be a doctor. But I got married young and never went back. And I had children. My greatest asset is my children. The biggest achievement is my daughters, but the food world was really just a passion to really share cultural foods with people. Things I learned from my grandmother. My aunt had a French Vietnamese restaurant in Montreal. And I spent my summers there, watching the whole process and I was just in love.
Have I ever thought of doing this? No, I just liked it. My grandma, I was the youngest so I hung out with her. I watched her make tofu from scratch, I watched her make pho from scratch, I watched her do different things like making artichoke teas. Just things that come back to your memory when you get older, then you want to share them with your kids. But my kids have their own families and their own lives and I don’t have anyone else to cook for, so that’s it. This is an opportunity for me to share that skill set.
Bodin: Do you still make dumplings?
Bodin: Where do you sell them?
trans: Clearfork Farmers Market; we are already there every saturday. We cannot keep them in stock. We have production this week. But then next week it will be mass production.
Bodin: how much do you make
trans: 1000. It’s a lot. Sometimes I’m here till 2 am.
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @sbodine120.